In conjunction with the Rams Inspire Change initiative, the franchise created the Kenny Washington Memorial scholarship. Last month, the reigning Super Bowl champion Rams celebrated the inaugural 13 students that earned the scholarship during the Fulfillment Fund’s Sip and Celebrate event that took place at Sofi Stadium.
Fulfillment Fund CEO Joanne Reyes noted how they were looking for students who embodied Washington’s legacy of being a trailblazer. One question on the scholarship application asked how they were leaders in their community. Over 300 Angeleno students applied for the scholarship, according to Reyes.
“There were all kinds of various ways that our young people were exhibiting their leadership skills, even at such a young age,” Reyes said. “Amazing resilience shown by our recipients.”
The Kenny Washington scholarship awards 13 students to commemorate his jersey number. Washington was the first Black player to be signed with an NFL franchise in the modern era. The 13 students are first-generation college students who reside in marginalized neighborhoods.
During the Sip and Celebrate event, the scholarship recipients were given a certificate, a Kenny Washington-Rams stole, and a Rams game ball. Attendees also got a chance to see the Lombardi Trophy. Scholarship recipient and recent King/Drew graduate Donte Lewis spoke during the event. He plans to study behavioral neuroscience and philosophy at Northeastern University.
“What stood out to me was his level of maturity and preparedness and his drive,” Reyes said. “This young man knows the kind of impact he wants to have and he prepares for it.”
The event also honored the life and efforts of Dr. Gary Gitnick who was committed to maintaining the Fulfillment Fund.
Along with having a scholarship that will last four years, the Fulfillment Fund will provide advisory support to the recipients. They will have advisors that will help them identify their interests and career paths.
“They not only get our advisor, but they also have a cohort of students that they’re entering with so they have a community,” Reyes said. “We provide access to exclusive internships and entry-level job opportunities.”
While the scholarship is for students who attend high schools that partner with the Fulfillment Fund, the scholarship honors Washington by allowing students who attended his alma mater Lincoln high school to apply.
Other qualities they were looking for are the student’s drive in their current endeavors and a passion for their future goals. Even students who did not have a major or a career path in mind wanted ardently to be of service to others.
“We had a couple of the students that we selected that were wanting to serve their communities by being healthcare professionals,” Reyes said. “They saw that there was a lack of people of color in their life that were healthcare professionals.”
Last season marked the 75th anniversary of Washington breaking the color barrier in the NFL. The Rams and the Fulfillment Fund hope to encourage the youth to instill equality into their future endeavors.
“These young people are going to be the ones whose voices are going to be in seats of influence,” Reyes said. “All of that is made possible when you uplift young people and you provide support so that they can pursue the education and the career that they dream of.”